The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are actively promoting a classic blood libel against Israel, after circulating a fabricated statement in the name of a prominent rabbi allegedly calling to poison Palestinian wells.
False allegations of Jews poisoning drinking water – along with other rumors such as those accusing Jews of drinking non-Jews' blood – were often used as pretexts for anti-Semitic massacres and pogroms in both Europe and the Arab world, particularly during the Middle Ages.
Such libels are still commonly circulated in the Muslim world, but rarely has the PA so brazenly fabricated a quote and apparently attributed it to a real Israeli rabbi – and then used it to call for international sanctions against the Jewish state.
In an official statement on the PA website – which was subsequently reprinted in various Palestinian media outlers – the PA's foreign ministry called on Israel to arrest "Rabbi Shlomo Mlmad" for calling on "settlers" to poison Palestinian wells.
It claimed his statements were revealed by the extreme-left "Breaking the Silence" NGO.
The PA continued its statement by using the allegations to urge international sanctions against the Jewish state.
"What is the international community waiting for to interfere; the death of thousands of Palestinians of thirst? To meet such incident with silence and ignore the war Israel is waging against Palestinians is a cause of shame for the international community," the foreign ministry's statement read.
The PA foreign ministry identified "Rabbi Mlmad" as "chairman of the so-called Council of Rabbis in West Bank settlements."
However, no such organization exists – in fact, Jews in Judea and Samaria actively reject the term "West Bank," seeing it as a relic of Arab colonial rule under the Jordanian King Abdullah I, who created the term to justify his annexation of the area in 1949.
There is a Council of Rabbis in Judea and Samaria, but it is led by Rabbi Yishai Babad.
"Mlmad" appears to be a misspelling of "Melamed" – a prominent Israeli rabbinical family. Rabbi Zalman Melamed – Chief Rabbi of Bet El and dean of Bet El Yeshiva – is among the foremost leaders of the religious-Zionist community; his son Rabbi Eliezer Melamed heads the Har Bracha yeshiva and is also a leading religious-Zionist scholar.
Yet both rabbis denied having made any such statements, or anything similar, and told Arutz Sheva such a call would run counter to Jewish law. Rabbi Zalman Melamed branded the allegations a "blood libel."
No record exists of any rabbi issuing such a ruling.
Of course, that has not stopped various Arab figures from actively promoting the apparently fabricated story.
Dr. Bassem Naim – Hamas's former "health minister" – was among the first to jump on the claims, which he illustrated with a picture of United Torah Judaism Party MK Yisrael Eichler.
The false report appears to have originated in a story fed to Turkey's Adadulo Agency, by a senior figure in Mahmoud Abbas's PLO.
"This is an incitement and a call for killing the Palestinians," it quoted Wasil Abu Youssef, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, as saying on Sunday.
He added that the story proves "that Israel is not a real peace partner."
"Dozens of similar orders were made by rabbis that called for killing Palestinians, robbing their lands and farmlands and destroying their property," he claimed, though did not provide any examples.
The saga comes on the heels of another recent, unsubstantiated claim – first published in Al Jazeera – that Israel had cut off water supplies to Palestinian communities in Judea and Samaria during Ramadan.
That allegation was also later firmly debunked. Water supplies to some Jewish and Arab communities alike had been temporarily effected by technical problems, which were fixed shortly afterwards. In fact, the IDF supplied a record volume of water to PA areas this year during Ramadan.